Hawaii: When Dreamland Becomes a Real Place

Sunset at Waikiki Beach. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

When I was a teenager, back in the 80s in Italy, like many other adolescents, I used to dream of Hawaii: This amazing, mysterious, and far-away place where Magnum PI would drive around in his Ferrari and people’s wishes would come true in Fantasyland.

In my mind, Hawaii was always a sort of fairytale world rather than a real archipelago where people lead their everyday lives. Growing up, I did not think much about it until the opportunity to visit O’ahu (the most popular of the Hawaiian islands for tourists) arose last year.

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My trip was followed by a second holiday, in January 2018. I can now officially affirm that, even though Hawaii remains the ideal home to every fairytale, it is a true place, which completely blew me away with its beauty and magic energy.

First trip to Hawaii

My first visit to Hawaii was a non-adventurous, lazy vacation: 8 days in Waikiki, O’ahu, spent laying on the beach, sleeping, shopping, and enjoying different types of food and entertainment.

I enjoyed it, but something was definitely missing and that week did not leave me an authentic taste of the island and its uniqueness. Only once, my friend and I hired a car and drove to the North Shore: That day I knew that I had to go back and see O’ahu in a different way.

The North Shore of Oahu is home to beautiful beaches. Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
The North Shore of O’ahu is home to beautiful beaches. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

Waikiki is the biggest tourist area of Honolulu, famous for its beach and entertainment. It is definitely beautiful, but also “artificial,” with its high buildings, luxury apartments, restaurants, prestigious hotels, shows, and designer shops.

For those who are familiar with Australia, it is like seeing Surfers Paradise and saying you have visited Queensland. Waikiki is the Surfers Paradise of Hawaii.

North Shore
The North Shore of O’ahu is home to beautiful beaches. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

Our accommodation for the week was a large apartment with a big balcony, in a condominium facing Waikiki Beach. From there, we enjoyed an incredible view of the ocean and Honolulu.

I will never forget the beauty of those sunsets and the stunning dawns, the fireworks lighting up the night and reflecting their sparks in the water. I will remember the colors of the sky changing continuously and melting with those of the sea.

Honolulu by night. (Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
Honolulu by night. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

While in Waikiki, we also enjoyed Rock-a-Hula, a permanent show that combines the songs of Elvis Presley, Katy Perry, and Michael Jackson with Hawaiian costumes, music, and dances.

The three celebrities are perfectly impersonated by talented artists, especially Elvis Presley, who is brought back to life by Johnny Fortuno, whose voice is incredible.

Second trip to Hawaii

My second visit to O’ahu was quite different. This time, I traveled with two friends and we booked a great accommodation through Airbnb in Kapolei, a new and quiet town next to Ko’holina and Aulani, the Disney Resort, about 30 minutes from Honolulu and about the same distance from the airport.

We hired a car aiming to see different places every day. Toward the end of our first trip to Hawaii, we had met a lovely lady, Lisa, who had been living on the island for many years and offered to show us the best places in O’ahu should we return.

Sunset at Waikiki Beach. (Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
Sunset at Waikiki Beach. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

Under her guidance, our second holiday became unforgettable. We explored volcanic caves, including Makuna Caves in Kaneana (West O’ahu) and the lava tube at Sandy Beach (South O’ahu), beautiful forests and waterfalls in Waimea Valley, and pristine beaches with powerful waves, including Sunset and Waimea Beaches.

We swam with the turtles in transparent waters in Pupukea and Electric Beach, surrounded by colorful fish, and we learned interesting facts about the local culture. We ate fresh food and stopped by the popular Giovanni’s van to taste its famous shrimp.

We explored the historical town of Hale’iwa, with its unique vintage atmosphere and shops.

Hale'iwa is an historical town on the North Shore offering to its visitors a unique vintage atmosphere. (Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
Hale’iwa is a historical town on the North Shore offering to its visitors a unique vintage atmosphere. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)
Surf shop in Hale'iwa. (Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
A surf shop in Hale’iwa. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)
Hale'iwa is an historical town on the North Shore offering to its visitors a unique vintage atmosphere. (Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
Hawaiians share the Aloha spirit and make everyone feel welcome. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

A tourist place that is worth visiting is the Polynesian Cultural Center, run by volunteers belonging to a Community of Mormons and whose profits go to students from the Pacific islands, who otherwise would not be able to afford tertiary education.

The Center beautifully displays the culture and traditions of the populations of Tahiti, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Hawaii, Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa.

We spent one whole day fully immersed in that charming and somehow mystic world, where we also watched a show titled Breath of Life, representing the core of the Polynesian spirit.

Polynesian Cultural Center (Photo: Courtesy of Laura Cozzolino)
Polynesian Cultural Center. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)
Polynesian Cultural Center. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)
Sunset at the Polynesian Cultural Center. (Photo: Courtesy Laura Cozzolino)
Sunset at the Polynesian Cultural Center. (Image: Laura Cozzolino)

Hawaii remains a dreamland, as it is an enchanted place, where the climate is warm all year round, with no extreme weather, nature is majestic and people live as a big Ohana (family) sharing the spirit of Aloha (from “Alo,” which means presence, and Hā, the Breath of Life that, in the Polynesian belief, creates a living being), which makes everyone feel welcome and loved.

I look forward to my next trip to Hawaii, where I will explore the other islands of the archipelago and experience more of the local lifestyle and traditions.

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